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Full text of "My Country And My People"

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Yet, in dealing with a country the common man cannot be
ignored. Ancient Greece was not entirely peopled by Sophocleses
and Elizabethan England was not strewn with Bacons and
Shakespeares. To talk of Greece and only think of Sophocles
and Pericles and Aspasia is to get a wrong picture of the
Athenians. One has to supplement it with an occasional
glimpse of the son of Sophocles who sued his father for in-
competency in managing his family affairs, and with characters
from Aristophanes, who were not all in love with beauty and
occupied in the pursuit of truth, but who were often drunk,
gluttonous, quarrelsome, venal and fickle, even as were common
Athenians. Perhaps the fickle Athenians help us to .under-
stand the downfall of the Athenian republic as much as
Pericles and Aspasia help us to understand its greatness.
Individually they are naught, but taken in the aggregate they
influence to a very large measure the course of national events.
In the past epoch, it may be difficult to reconstruct them, but
in a living country the common man is always with us.

But who is the common man, and what is he? The China-
man exists only as a general abstraction in our minds. Apart
from the cultural unity which binds the Chinese people as a
nation, the southern Chinese differ probably as much from
the northerners, in temperament, physique and habits, as the
Mediterraneans differ from the Nordic peoples in Europe.
Happily, within, the orbit of the Chinese culture there has
not been a rise of nationalism, but only of provincialism,
which after all was what made peace within the empire
possible for centuries.   The common historical tradition, the
written language, which has in a singular way solved the
problem of Esperanto in China, and the cultural homogeneity
achieved through centuries of slow, peaceful penetration of a
civilization over comparatively docile aborigines, have achieved
for China the basis of the common brotherhood so much
desirable now in Europe. Even the spoken language presents
no difficulty nearly so great as confronts Europe to-day.   A
native of Manchuria can, with some difficulty, make himself
understood in south-west Yunnan, a linguistic feat made possible
by a slow colonization process and helped greatly by the system
of writing, the visible symbol of China's unity,